Guwahati: A 56-year-old man in Assam’s Dhubri district is waging a lonely battle for his identity for the past 16 years after two contradictory judgments delivered by two different Foreigners Tribunal (FT) courts in the state cast aspersions on his citizenship.
While the Dhubri FT court (8th) declared Ahar Ali, a resident of Berbhangi Part II village of Golakganj in Dhubri district, an Indian in 2016, the Kamrup Metro FT Court (2nd) declared him a foreigner in another case in July this year.
There are 100 foreigners tribunals in Assam; of these 64 were set up in 2015, to aid in the mammoth exercise of determining illegal immigrants in the state through the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
In the first case, the then 40-year-old Ali, who was working in a coalfield as a daily labourer, had a case registered against him on suspicion of his nationality under the IMDT Act in 2002 (case number 667/02 ). When the IMDT Act got scrapped in 2005, the case was transferred to the Dhubri FT court (2nd) under (case number 6532/11, 29/07/2011). The case was again transferred to the Dhubri FT Court (8th) on August 11, 2015.
Since then, it has been a long battle for Ali to prove his citizenship in court.
“I had to spend over Rs 50, 000 to pay my advocate. I had to give bribe to the officers to get copies of voter ID lists and other documents. I had to run from pillar to post to prove my identity just because someone felt that I am not Indian enough,” Ali told EastMojo.
It took Ali five years to prove his Indian citizenship. The Dhubri FT court (8th) on April 27, 2016 declared him an Indian citizen.
The court said, “After perusal of the evidence of the opposite party, coupled with the above mentioned documents relied upon by him it appears to be trustworthy and there is nothing on record to disbelieve... The parents of the OP are Indian citizens and the OP is born and brought up through some genuine Indian parents and so cannot be termed to be an illegal migrant as suspected and alleged in the above mentioned reference case.”
But all hell broke loose when Ali was again sent a notice from the Kamrup Metro FT court (2nd) later in 2016. That is when he got to know that he had another case registered (case no: 271/17) against him under the Foreigners Act 1946.
“I was once picked up by the Basistha police station in Guwahati while working in a coal depot in Beltola area way back in 2002. The police claimed that I was not an Indian and had migrated from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971. They wrote down my name and, after a few hours, they let me go. But I had no idea that I had a case registered against me in the Kamrup Metro FT court related to that incident.”
Ali has claimed that from 2002 to 2016, he had not got a single notice from the FT court of Kamrup Metro (2nd).
“I had submitted the same documents to prove my citizenship which I had earlier submitted to Dhubri FT court in connection with the IMDT case. It includes my Panchayat certificate, high school certificate, land documents, NRC voter entry of 1951 to 2008 and certified copy of the court order of Dhubri FT court,” said Ali.
On July 24, the Kamrup Metro FT court declared him a foreigner.
“....the opposite party failed to establish that he or his ancestors are residing in Assam, India, Prior to 24th March, 1971 and this tribunal form opinion that the opposite party Ahar Ali,@Md Ahar Ali Sk, S/O Late Untu Sheikh@ Anto Sheikh...... is a foreigner from Bangladesh who illegally entered Assam India after 24th March, 1971.” The court concluded.
Now 56 years old, Ali is a tired and poor old man. He stays with nine of his children in his village. To fight the cases, he sold off his agricultural land to a friend at a very cheap rate. According to Ali, he spent the best days of his life fighting for an identity.
“At first, I had to sell off my land to fight the first case. For the second, I had to sell my cattle. I spent more than Rs 1.5 lakh to pay the fees of advocates. You can imagine how tough it would have for a daily-wage earner to collect the sum. My children could not complete their studies because I had to divert whatever resources I had from their education to the cases.”
Ali has now approached the Guwahati High Court against the order of Kamrup Metro FT Court.
“We submitted a petition in the Guwahati High Court on Monday. We hope by Friday, the court will take cognizance of matter,” said Piar Ali, a Guwahati-based advocate fighting for Ahar Ali’s case.